Preview: Stormers v Reds

The Stormers will be eager to get their Super Rugby campaign back on track when they host the Reds at Newlands on Saturday.

The Cape Town-based franchise will fancy their chances, as the 2011 champions have continued their downward spiral.

Reds co-interim head coaches Matt O’Connor and Nick Stiles were handed the proverbial hot potato after Richard Graham was fired in Round Two. The duo now face their first South African tour together and it doesn't get much harder than back-to-back games against the Bulls and Stormers. 

Added to that, the men from Brisbane have a poor record in the Republic, as they have won only one of their last nine matches in South Africa, beating the lowly Cheetahs last year.

While the visitors have a solid pack of forwards – they are rather surprisingly ranked first at scrum time – their backline has not been able to produce the points. As a result, the Reds average just 1.9 tries a game, ranked 17th in the competition.

Then when they do score, place-kickers Jake McIntyre and Japan’s Ayumu Goromaru struggle to add the extras, as the duo have a combined kicking accuracy of just 67 per cent.

All this plays nicely into the hands of the Stormers, whose defence has proved itself as one of the best in the competition.

Additionally, goalkicking could play a vital role this weekend as the weatherman is predicting an absolute deluge late Friday night. If it’s not raining on Saturday, it will at least be cold and wet underfoot, playing into the territorial game Robbie Fleck likes to play.

If the Stormers want to be contenders at the business end of the tournament, taking advantage of these two home games against a weak Reds outfit and an out-of-sorts Waratahs next week could be key.

The last time the teams met: The conference system made sure the two teams missed each other last season, so it’s back to 2014 we go. The Stormers arrived in Brisbane off the back off three defeats and Quade Cooper was the thorn in their side, kicking five from seven and slotting a late drop goal to take the game away from the visitors. Given that this was two seasons ago, there is little that we can take from this. 

Players to watch: Springbok centre Damian de Allende will be chomping at the bit to get stuck in on his home turf. The University of Cape Town product enjoyed an outstanding season in 2015 and he will be eager to continue in the same vain. With conditions looking tricky, fly-half Jean-Luc du Plessis will also be under the microscope.

For the Reds, centre Samu Kerevi has been a workhorse in 2016, nothing up no less than 89 carries for the franchise this year. Only the mercurial Damian McKenzie has more. You won’t see him much, but when his head is down at scrum time, captain James Slipper proves his worth. The Wallaby has played a vital role in the Reds’ success at scrum time. 

Team news: Fleck has named a host of changes for Saturday's clash, though home fans will be most excited about the return of Springbok Damian de Allende. The centre will partner Johnny Kotze in the midfield, as co-captain Juan de Jongh is out with a concussion. Rynhardt Elstadt will make his first start of the season, while Frans Malherbe also return to captain the side from the front-row. 

The Reds have made just two changes to the side that lost in Pretoria. The return of experienced campaigner Rob Simmons at lock from a shoulder injury will be a welcome boost, while Curtis Browning get a started at number eight in the place of the injured Jake Schatz.

Form: The hosts are coming off a loss last week, their second of the season. The men from Cape Town have impressed so far, with wins over the Brumbies, Bulls and Sunwolves at home while taking care of business away from home against the Jaguares and Cheetahs as well. 

After a slow start to the season, the Reds have been buoyed of late by a thrilling home win over the Highlanders, the defending champions. That round seven victory was the first of 2016 for the Reds, who also drew with the Blues in round four. After a 41-22 loss last week to the Bulls, they now find themselves with just eight points from eight games.

Prediction: The Reds’ dominance in the pack and the trying conditions will make the game closer than expected, but the Stormers will still come out on top by seven.

Previous matches:

2014: Reds won 22-17 in Brisbane
2013: Stormers won 20-15 in Cape Town
2012: Stormers won 23-13 in Brisbane
2011: Reds won 19-6 in Cape Town
2010: Reds won 16-13 in Brisbane
2009: Stormers won 27-124 in Cape Town
2008: Stormers won 34-16 in Brisbane
2007: Stormers won 37-24 in Cape Town

The teams:

Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 Frans Malherbe (c), 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Huw Jones, 23 Brandon Thomson

Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Curtis Browning, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ben Matwijow, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 James Slipper (c)
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Sef Fa'agase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Michael Gunn, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Duncan Paia’aua, 23 Ayumu Goromaru

Date: Saturday, 23 April 
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 15:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen 
Assistant Referees: Quinton Immelman; Cwengile Jadezweni 
TMO: Shaun Veldsman